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Mai Kai Restaurant: History of a South Florida Institution

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While the food focuses on cuisine from throughout the South Pacific, much of the region and restaurant's dishes are heavily influenced with Cantonese techniques. In 1971 the restaurant underwent a massive expansion, which included the addition of two Chinese wood burning ovens. The ovens use smoke from the wood fire to slow cook the meats, which can take up to 45 minutes.

"I have read that there are four in the United States and we have two," says Dahlquist, "But I'm not 100% sure on that. Regardless, there aren't many."

Much of the original menu remains the same, but some dishes have been added over the years. During the recession the Mai Kai shrunk its menu down to two pages with additional daily specials, but the goal is to bring it back to six pages as the economy picks up. Entrees range in price from the $16.25 Hawaiian Chicken crusted in panko topped with a tropical fruit sweet and sour sauce to the $90 Filet Mignon Madagascar for

two, cooked in the Chinese oven.

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Sara Ventiera